Edinburgh's winter festivals

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  • Shoppers peruse the Christmas market stalls in Edinburgh
    The Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
  • Looking on on a busy street packed with flaming torches making a river of light
    Princes Street at the start of the Hogmanay festivities (image courtesy of Unique Events)

Famous the world over for its hilltop castle, cultural festivals and Hogmanay street party, Edinburgh provides a magical backdrop for Christmas shopping, nights out and exceptional winter events.


The festive fun begins at Light Night on 24 November when a dramatic extravaganza depicting The Twelve Days of Christmas will be performed on George Street. The city lights will then be turned on by Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, and the event culminates with live music and a spectacular firework display.

The winter events programme continues with a Royal Norwegian Advent Concert at St Giles Cathedral on 25 November, a carol concert in St Andrew Square on 1 December and St Andrew’s Day on 30 November. The main St Andrew’s Day celebrations will take place in the Grassmarket and include storytelling, music workshops, an outdoor ceilidh and excellent folk music performances. Of course, no winter in Edinburgh is complete without Hogmanay on 31 December. This year is no exception, with the city's celebrations marking the beginning of the Year of Homecoming Scotland 2014.


Edinburgh is brimming with festive performances to enjoy, including the pantomime Peter Pan at The King’s Theatre, a rendition of A Christmas Carol at The Royal Lyceum Theatre and a choice of two family theatre shows in St Andrew Square.

Those who’d like a night out with a difference can see the circus and cabaret extravaganza Limbo at the Spiegeltent in St Andrew Square, or dance the night away at Hot Dub Time Machine: Best.Party.Ever at Summerhall.


Whether you’re looking for a gadget in a department store, a designer outfit from a West End boutique, or unique presents from a festive market, you’ll find that Edinburgh is a great place for shopping. You can really take time to search for the perfect gift thanks to extended festive opening hours and free parking which will see the centre Alive after Five in December.

Why not make a day of it, or even enjoy a city break in the capital? At Ocean Terminal in Leith you can combine Christmas shopping with a trip around one of the city’s top attractions – The Royal Yacht Britannia. The 5-star experience will be running a shopping and tastings evening on 28 November and a special Christmas Weekend from 7 December – 8 December.

Things to do

Get that festive feeling as you follow the Decorate Edinburgh tree trail to spot trees decorated to support local charities. You could even have a go at the Christmas Tree Maze in Princes Street Gardens. There will also be further attractions and rides in the Gardens, including the Ice Rink, Big Wheel and Santa’s Grotto. Nearby at St Andrew Square, thrill-seekers will love the Star Flyer, a 360 degree ride 60 metres up in the air!